Peavy can't save Sox this time

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A cure-all he isn't, and never pretended to be.

But this was quite a comedown for Jake Peavy after his inspiring debut in a Boston Red Sox uniform last Saturday -- one witnessed by his family, including his parents -- a night that he called among the best of his career.

This, on the other hand?

"Just one of them nights that just wasn't our night," Peavy said after being barbecued for six runs and leaving before recording an out in the sixth inning, when the Kansas City Royals scored six times to wipe out a three-run deficit en route to a 9-6 win over the Red Sox.

"Obviously, I take the blame. Your offense can't score six runs and not win a game that you start. It's no excuse. [I] Didn't get it done."

The Sox gave Peavy a 1-0 lead on Daniel Nava's RBI single in the first, a departure from recent custom, in which opponents had scored first in 15 of the previous 19 games.

When the Royals touched Peavy for two runs in a 37-pitch second that included a Justin Maxwell home run to left, the Sox seized the lead back again when David Ortiz hit his 22nd home run and Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled in the run that made it 3-2 in the third.

When the Royals tied it in the bottom of the third -- Alex Gordon cleared the fence in dead center -- the Sox responded yet again, with Mike Napoli emerging from a prolonged slump with what he does best: deliver a big hit with the bases loaded, this time a three-run double in the fourth.

For Sox manager John Farrell, after two relatively quick innings for Peavy in the fourth and the fifth, the plan was to let his starter go one more inning. That stratagem lasted just three batters, as Maxwell, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar produced a run and left the tying runs on base.

Rookie Drake Britton entered and walked George Kottaras, the former Sox backup catcher who isn't hitting a lick (.176) but has been a walk machine -- 23 walks in 99 plate appearances, including two Friday, which gives him a legitimate claim to being the Greek god of walks, unlike that Romanian impostor, Kevin Youkilis.

Britton coaxed a popup out of pinch hitter Miguel Tejada for the inning's first out. Rookie David Lough flied out to right, and, even though he slipped, Shane Victorino nearly threw out the baserunner, Moustakas, at the plate. That would have ended the inning. Instead, Moustakas just beat the throw, and, worse, the other runners both moved up a base.

That proved critical when the next hitter, Eric Hosmer, stuck out his bat and directed a ground ball through the left side for a two-run single that gave the Royals a 7-6 lead. Pedro Beato entered, Billy Butler hit his first pitch for a double that made it 8-6 and Maxwell's second hit of the inning produced Kansas City's final run of the night.

"I didn't have good stuff," Peavy said. "I didn't feel very good stuff-wise and command-wise. You knew going in this bunch [the Royals] is scrappy. They don't strike out, they put the ball in play and good things happen. You saw it tonight. A lot of two-strike hits. My stuff just wasn't sharp at all."

Of the 10 hits allowed by Peavy, five came with two strikes. Hosmer threw his bat at a two-strike slider from Britton after swinging and missing at the same pitch moments earlier. Maxwell's RBI single off Beato also came with two strikes.

Peavy wasn't exaggerating when he said the Royals put the ball in play. They have the fewest strikeouts in baseball, 705, 235 fewer than the Sox (940), who rank 12th in the AL in whiffs.

Of the 105 pitches Peavy threw, the Royals swung and missed exactly two.

"I think the putaway pitch was a little elusive," Farrell said.

Even so, Farrell was hoping to coax one last inning out of Peavy because he wanted to stay away from Junichi Tazawa, who pitched two innings Wednesday. The seventh was set up for Britton, the eighth for Craig Breslow.

It all looked so tidy on paper, but the Royals, winners of 17 of 21 since the All-Star break, have been messing up a lot of plans these days. The Sox KO'd starter Ervin Santana in the fourth, but the Royals' lockdown bullpen delivered 5⅓ innings of two-hit, scoreless relief.

This is a different team, Peavy said, than the one he'd held to four hits and a run in his first start of 2013, back on April 3.

"Of course," he said, "you definitely can tell they've been playing well."

The Sox, not so much. They opened this trip by being shut out by Houston, the team with the worst record in baseball, and spotted the Astros big leads the next two nights before rallying for wins. Now, they've lost the first two to the Royals, who are craving legitimacy, with Jeremy Guthrie and James Shields primed to give Kansas City its biggest series win -- of how long? The season? This century? The past 20 seasons? Don't look now, but the Royals are in the wild-card hunt, one of six teams ahead of the Yankees.

The Sox, meanwhile, saw their lead in the AL East remain at two games after the Dodgers, down 6-0 in the seventh inning, rallied back to stun the Rays for a 7-6 walk-off win in Los Angeles on Friday night. The dog days are here, and it's going to take more than Peavy to pull Boston through.